Gone are the days when the requirements for the developer were limited only to his participation in the development process, system design, and optimization of applications.
As the IT industry develops, so do the expectations from developers. Even if you work for a development company, you will still interact with your colleagues – most likely, you will be a member of a team, a part of a large group of people.
In this article, we tell you what soft skills a developer of any level needs to have in order to comfortably fit into a team and work effectively. We will also share some recommendations on how to form soft skills. Let’s go!
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SOFT AND HARD SKILLS?
A developer is a person who is in the thick of things in a company. This person communicates with the team, discusses current tasks, tries to implement them, offers ideas, etc. And sometimes he also eats, sleeps and spends time with loved ones.
To work comfortably, devote time to your development and not burn out, a developer needs soft skills. If you’re an incredible techie but you are lacking time management, team communication, and self-regulation skills, there’s high chance are you’ll be favored over a more organized newbie.
According to a study published in the personal column of Ray Williams (Canada’s one of top Executive Coaches, CEO, a best-selling author of 4 non-fiction books on leadership) in August 2022, employers “value soft skills more highly than professional competencies for a successful career start.” Soft skills need to be developed not only by beginners, but also by experienced developers.
Among the eight main skills that will be most in demand in all professions by 2025, experts from the World Economic Forum named analytical thinking, creativity, initiative, leadership, social influence, stress resistance, imagination and the ability to argue one’s position.
WHAT SOFT SKILLS DOES A DEVELOPER NEED?
Understanding what you are really interested in. At the beginning of your journey, you will encounter a lot of routine work, such as fixing bugs and maintaining legacy code. Be patient, persevere and remember that it will definitely pay off.
The ability to learn. The IT-sphere is constantly growing with new technologies constantly emerging. Determine how you better assimilate information and learn – with the help of books, courses, blogs, channels, communication on forums or meetups.
Time management. It’s easy to get excited and start working overtime. This will give a quick result, but in the long run may lead to burnout and set you a few steps back. Use time management techniques that work for you, include hobbies, and organize your work area well.
Ability to deal with stress. A novice developer is often faced with tasks that take a lot of effort and time due to the lack of necessary skills. It is critical to learn how to manage stress so as not to drive yourself into a dead end and not slow down the learning process.
System approach to problem solving. Learn to estimate the time it takes to complete tasks by relating their complexity to your skills. Break tasks into subtasks and allocate time for each of them. Set priorities and be responsible for the implementation. Be curious and try to figure out the problem yourself. At the same time, it’s not shameful to ask for help if you reach a jumping-off place in your work: explain the problem, talk about possible solutions, and ask what a more experienced colleague would do.
Teamwork skills. In your work, you will interact with Android and iOS developers, backend developers, managers, analysts, testers, etc. The more coherent communication is, the more effective’s the work of the whole team – sometimes the fate of the release depends on the ability to agree. This is especially true for distributed teams where the developers are located remotely from each other. Every available type of communication will be used – instant messengers, correspondence, audio and video calls, and screen sharing.
Ability to listen to others and give feedback. This is also called active listening. Learn to listen to the team and respond appropriately to criticism. This skill is especially useful for code review – checking your program code by other developers. This is a great practice that will allow you to reduce the number of errors in the code and improve your development skills thanks to the advice of your colleagues.
Ability to quickly adapt. Often we work in a mode of rapidly changing conditions –updated the layouts, added requirements to the task, found a critical bug, etc. Especially if the next release is around the corner. It is important to be in touch, quickly get involved in work and calmly respond to changes.
Independence. Most often, developers manage their own working time, so it is important to develop discipline, responsibility and decision-making skills.
Creativity. Do not believe those who say that working as a programmer is a job without creativity. Here you will have to come up with new and non-standard methods for solving problems that deviate from traditional schemes.
If you’re wondering where to start and what to look out for, then consider these skills:
- Time management;
- Teamwork skills;
- Communication skills;
- The ability to bring what has been started to close
If you are completely lost, you can always ask your friends. They will not only point you at your weaknesses but also at your strengths.
HOW TO ASSESS AND DEVELOP SOFT SKILLS?
Soft skills can be assessed on your own. Pay attention to the areas where you have difficulties. Maybe you are a master of time management and a systematic approach but creative tasks are difficult for you. You should direct your attention where you feel you lack confidence. Although, don’t loop on your cons.
With all else being equal, the development of strengths gives huge profit.
The way to test your soft skills in an interview is not only questions from an HR specialist about your past work experience. How did you deal with difficulties? What were the slip-ups? Have you ever worked in an environment of high uncertainty? In other words, when you had to quickly adapt to changing conditions.
HR of an IT-company
HR looks at your soft skills not only during your interview. It is already happening at the stage of initial communication – correspondence, phone calls, etc. Of course, the main “assessment” occurs when communicating face-to-face.
In our company, one interview is immediately technical either in person in the office or by phone with cameras. Therefore, while the candidate is answering the expert’s questions, HR observes: how does the candidate respond to the questions? How much time is required for a response? Is he trying to find a solution and how? For example, problems for the logical or code. Does he ask clarifying questions if something is not clear? What questions does he ask about the company?
The latter can show what the candidate has in priority, what values he is interested in, etc. On this stage, it will already depend on whether the values of the applicant converge with the values of the company.
It is believed that soft skills are best developed through practice. Partially, this is true. It is difficult to improve the skill of communication or teamwork with theoretical knowledge. Coping with stress, solving problems systematically or generating ideas without practice is also problematic. It turns into an endless thought experiment.
Head of mobile development
There are many ways to develop soft skills in IT. From what I can advise – apply to vacancies and go to interviews. So you yourself will feel where you crater not only in technical skills, but also in soft ones. And be sure to ask for feedback.
Listen to public interviews. For example, these are live broadcasts where the candidate is interviewed by a team leader. And everyone can watch the process, listen to questions and answers, and generally understand what is approximately expected of them at an interview. In addition, I advise you to pay attention to what you would say and do differently. If you wish, try your hand at such interviews as a candidate!
Find a community of like-minded people – the IT community is very developed, so you can find a chat and event for every programming language. There you can communicate, discuss current news, make friends and stay up to date on the agenda.
Nevertheless, additional materials will help you form new and upgrade already existing soft skills with ease and higher efficiency.
“Thinking, Fast and Slow”, by Daniel Kahneman.
“Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”, by Daniel Goleman
“Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques”, by Michael Michalko
“Listening Effectively”, by John A. Kline